I feared the same might apply to another actress who spent time at RKO and who, like Lombard and Hepburn, was a pretty talented tennis player. I'm referring to Ginger Rogers...but lo and behold, a photo of them has been found, and I thank my friend Tally for referring me to it. From what I can gather, this ran in Photoplay sometime in 1939:
With them are two noted Hollywood fashion designers -- Travis Banton, who did a splendid job with Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert and other stars at Paramount in the 1930s, and Howard Greer, who as far as I know never worked with Lombard, but had been at Paramount in the 1920s before deciding to freelance. He designed outfits for Hepburn in "Christopher Strong" and "Bringing Up Baby" and also worked with a number of other stars. In fact, for a brief time Banton and Greer joined forces, but their only notable fashion production was this evening jacket for Dietrich in 1936, of which I've added a closeup so you can appreciate the detail that went into this outfit:
It's good we found a photo of Lombard and Rogers -- now if we can only find one showing them playing tennis.
Let's turn the clock back more than a decade from 1939, to a time when Lombard had just left her teens and hadn't quite yet found her voice as an actress (both figuratively and literally). Her new home studio, Pathe, put her in a few films that were either part-talkies or had a synchronized musical score but no dialogue. One of them was called "Ned McCobb's Daughter" and came out near the end of 1928. Here's a lobby card from the film:
This movie, set in Maine and adapted from a Sidney Howard play (about a dozen years before Lombard would star in another Howard adaptation, "They Knew What They Wanted") starred Irene Rich as the title character; Lombard has a supporting role (as does Robert Armstrong, who would make four films with her at Pathe, although in only two did they receive top billing) and drew some favorable reviews. I've had the image of the lobby card for some time, but never saw a publicity still from the film until coming across this the other day:
The unfortunate news is this film is believed lost, the most recent Lombard movie to hold that sad distinction. (The titles were written by Edwin Justus Mayer, a playwright and screenwriter whose credits include the screenplay for the original "To Be Or Not To Be.") I wish I could identify the children from the photo; it's theoretically possible one or both are still alive, though they'd be around 90 years old now.
Finally, I earlier mentioned "They Knew What They Wanted," which premiered 70 years ago Tuesday. Syndicated columnist Jimmie Fidler apparently saw a preview and was impressed, but added a caveat. In a "confidential communique" on Oct. 15, 1940, he wrote: "Carole Lombard: Your very dramatic performance in 'They Knew What They Wanted' is really GREAT. But don't let critics' praise blind you to the fact that lots of faithful fans will be disappointed if you now disdain those zany roles you do so well."
Of course, this was Carole's fourth non-comedy in a row, and she was more than halfway into the filming of her upcoming movie, the comedic "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," so perhaps Fidler was simply setting up straw men. Or perhaps he was concerned that were Carole to bring home an Oscar -- in his column the next day, he said Lombard and co-star Charles Laughton were "making strong bids for Academy recognition" -- she might abandon comedy entirely. And in that Oct. 16 column, he also quoted the film's director, Garson Kanin: "Irene Dunne and Bette Davis both act with their heads; Carole Lombard acts with her intuition." Interesting. Lombard's in between Laughton and Kanin below, with the Oct. 15 and 16 Fidler columns (from the Los Angeles Times) on each side of the photo:
Of course, Lombard didn't win the Oscar for 1940 (she wasn't even nominated); Rogers did -- thus bringing this entry full circle.